The most famous Lebanese meal is indisputably the Mezze. It is the hors d’oeuvre par excellence and it can be composed of eighty nicely designed dishes or more. The basic Mezze consists of tabbouleh (salad of chopped parsley, burghul, tomatoes and onions), baba ghannouj (eggplant puree often decorated with pomegranate grains), hummus (chick peas puree with sesame oil), Kibbehh (fresh mutton or lamb meat grounded with burghul, flavored and served raw, fried or grilled), labneh (a kind of creamy cheese similar to yoghurt), fatayer (triangular pastries stuffed with spinach or meat and pine seeds), and waraq anab mahchi (stuffed vine leaves). You can also find cubes of salted goat cheese and delicious black olives from the country. A more elaborate Mezze consists of several kinds of roasted, fried or grilled meat, fish and vegetables. With all of the above, we definitely eat the Arabic pita bread. To wash down everything, you can choose between the arak (aniseed drink that takes, when mixed with water, a milky tint) or and excellent variety of local wine and beer. Thus, the Mezze provides a balanced diet and can stand for a meal by itself.
Seafood restaurants can be found all along the coastal main road. Two of the best seafood dishes are Sayadiyah (chunks of fresh fish cooked with onions, almonds, pine seeds and spices, served with browned rice) and Samak tajin bi tahin (oven-cooked fish with sesame oil); not to mention the river fish (Samak nahri) which is served in all the villages around mountain rivers.
Lamb meat is highly appreciated in Lebanon. It is used in different traditional dishes such as kafta (made with grounded lamb meat) and kebabs, whereas lamb legs are often stuffed with rice, pistachios and almonds.
Another delicious Lebanese specialty is the koussa mahchi, small zucchinis stuffed with minced meat and rice and marinated in a tomato sauce. Eggplants, tomatoes, vine leaves and artichokes are also appreciated in mahchi and are sometimes served with yoghurt.
Try the chicken moughrabié, a stew of small slices of chicken and mutton with couscous, dried beans and spices; or the farrouj mechoui, a grilled chicken served with a garlic dressing. Another chicken dish is chicken liver sautéed in an exquisite butter sauce.
If you wish to have a quick snack, you will find a chawarma stand on all the main streets. Made of garlic-flavored mutton meat, the chawarma is placed on a vertical spit rolling in front of the fire. A chawarma sandwich is filling, tasty and affordable. Should you be in a hurry, you can also have a falafel sandwich: burger of chopped and fried chickpeas.
Bread in Lebanon is delicious and always freshly consumed. Amongst the wide variety of bread, the most common kinds are the Arabic bread or khoubz arabi (round double-loafed bread), Markouk (round, thin-as-paper mountain bread, with a diameter that can reach one meter), Mankoushe or Manakish (a plain oven-cooked dough covered with finely chopped thyme, sesame seeds and olive oil), which is often served for breakfast. The Lahm bi’ajin (very thin Armenian pizza with meat, tomatoes and spices) make an excellent snack.
Dessert lovers can indulge themselves in the Lebanese sweets. Lebanese desserts are generally very sweet with the exception of fresh ice creams and delicious sorbets. The most famous dessert is Osmaliyeh, a vermicelli-like cake filled with cream cheese and syrup coating; not to mention the Maamoul (dough filled with pistachios or walnuts) and Mouhallabieh (rice cream pudding garnished with rose petals marmalade and almonds).
Lebanese people enjoy a long hospitality tradition and love having friends over. Each visit, be it in a house or even a shop, necessarily comes with the traditional Arabic coffee, a thick, strong and slightly aromatic coffee. Brewed in a long-handled coffee pot, the Arabic coffee is served in front of guests in a half cup with a glass of water.